October 26, 2020 – Anchorage, Alaska – The Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) has issued a policy paper on the matter of “local communities”, outlining how the term has eroded and undermined Inuit rights by UN member States and within major intergovernmental forums including the specialized agencies of the United Nations and regional institutions such as the Arctic Council.
The eight-page policy paper describes who Inuit are as distinct peoples, and provides historical background of the Indigenous peoples’ specific human rights framework that Inuit have helped to crystalize in favor of all Indigenous Peoples. It includes several concrete examples of how grouping and conflating Inuit together with “local communities” undermines and erodes Inuit rights. Five recommendations are provided to remedy this practice.
ICC Chair Dalee Sambo Dorough stated “The undermining of the rights of Inuit and other Indigenous peoples by States and intergovernmental organizations is unacceptable, particularly at a time of surging international interest and activity throughout Inuit Nunaat now unfolding against the backdrop of a global climate crisis and pandemic. The grouping of Indigenous peoples with “local communities” in conventions and multilateral agreements has resulted in the slow and incremental erosion of the distinct nature of the interrelated, interdependent and indivisible rights of Indigenous peoples.”
The policy paper argues that the practice of lumping Inuit and other Indigenous peoples together with “local communities” is part of an alarming trend in the behavior of States to diminish the standards in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), including actions to devalue Indigenous peoples’ status, rights, and role. Examples of major international multilateral agreements that group Indigenous peoples and “local communities” together include the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, known as Agenda 21. More recently the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change conflates Indigenous peoples and local communities within the document. The preamble of the Paris Agreement uses the phrase “local communities and indigenous peoples” and the ICC has faced difficulties in de-linking the two in order to safeguard Inuit priorities, our way of life, and our right to be different and respected as such.
ICC puts forward five recommendations in the policy paper for States and intergovernmental organizations to implement in order to remedy this practice. They include reforming procedural rules to include the full and effective participation of Inuit and other Indigenous peoples; adopting and implementing a distinctions-based policy; and using the UNDRIP as a framework in the development of any documentation or agreement implicating the rights and status of Indigenous peoples.
The policy paper concludes, “Inuit are rights holders and we seek full and effective participation in all conventions, multilateral agreements, and international fora where our rights, culture, and way of life are impacted. This can only be achieved if States and intergovernmental organizations cease grouping and conflating Indigenous peoples with “local communities”, reform outdated procedural rules that marginalize Inuit and other Indigenous peoples, and utilize the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for uplifting the status, rights and participation of Indigenous peoples.”